California voters choose help for drug offenders

Divisions planning involvement


With the passage of Proposition 36–the Substance Abuse and Crime Prevention Act–California voters signaled both a desire for compassion and fiscal responsibility. Specialists in substance abuse rehabilitation within the Army see this action as very positive and recognize that prison for non-violent drug offenders was not working.

The scourge of addiction demands treatment over a lifetime–treatment based on spiritual renewal. Failure is ever present. This is evident in the lives of such public figures as Robert Downey Jr. and Darryl Strawberry.

The Act seeks to “divert from incarceration into community-based substance abuse treatment programs non-violent defendants, probationers and parolees charged with simple drug possession or drug use offenses.” It will provide re-sources to treat non-violent drug offenders assigned by the courts to treatment services rather than prison and will result in estimated savings to both the counties and the state of $1.5 billion dollars over the next five years. Individuals convicted of violent felonies shall not be eligible for admission to the program. It modifies sections of the Penal Code as well as the Health and Safety Code.

The Salvation Army is one of the largest substance abuse rehabilitation providers in California with its 18 Adult Rehabilitation Centers, two Harbor Light programs, innumerable shelters, strong anti-drug youth programs, and vocational development services. It also provides resources for family counseling and literacy training.

The Southern California Division has a strong proactive stance in relation to the Act, with planning underway that will involve the Bell Shelter and Harbor Light programs. These could include outpatient as well as residential programs.

“We believe that Proposition 36 represents a tremendous opportunity for the Army and, therefore, we are anxious to investigate fully every possibility,” stated Lt. Colonel Alfred VanCleef, divisional commander.

Golden State Division is examining aspects of the act in relation to the Harbor Light program in San Francisco. Del Oro and Sierra Del Mar are examining the Act and waiting for guidelines to be developed to determine the specific opportunities available to the Army.


The Act requires participating treatment centers to be either “a licensed and/or certified community drug treatment program.” The Army’s Adult Rehabilitation Centers have resisted the notion of both licensing and state funding from governmental sources. Lt. Colonel Dan Starrett, ARCC commander, had this explanation about why he believes the ARC’s should not be part of this program:

“For over 100 years the ARC’s throughout the United States have been offering spiritual regeneration, work therapy, and rehabilitation support to men and women.

“All of these services have been offered through the sales of items through our thrift stores, the sole financial support for our ministry. Through the sales of recycled items, we have been able to remain completely committed to the mission statement of the ARC such as the only complete recovery from any substance abuse, baggage from the past, or struggle with self or society is through salvation in Christ.”

Program strength

“Our program strength has been through the freedom to develop our programs free of governmental influence or control. We applaud the involvement of the voters of the State of California in the battle against the devastation of alcohol, and drugs and other life problems affecting people through them. We have demonstrated and continue to prove that our faith in the public support through their donations and the sales in our programs will provide the financial support for ARC’s to maintain our success, fulfill our mission will provide the financial support for ARC’s to maintain our success, fulfill our mission statement and be faithful to our spiritual mandate.

“Our facilities remain at capacity and with waiting lists to enter most of our programs. We have clearly demonstrated that the combination of the support from the public through their donations and long established spiritual, program and work therapy goals without the ‘strings’ that usually come with outside funding, we have been successful. We will continue to work with drug courts, probation departments, agencies, churches and many others who refer individuals to use for help. We would welcome the opportunity to work with state and local officials to be a partner in the development of the policies for implementing Proposition 36 within the framework of our mission statement.”

Arizona success

Arizona has been involved with similar legislation for the past three years. The program’s 1998 data indicate 21% of convicted substance abusers were diverted to treatment instead of prison. Over 35% of those assigned to a treatment provider completed the assign-ed programs with cost savings to the state in excess of $2.5 million.

The California plan states that treatment can be provided on both outpatient and residential bases. The outpatient program assigned may be either regular or “intensive.” The residential program may be either short-term or long-term. Individual providers will develop the specific models of treatment. The court will refer clients to providers deemed to have the best program for a particular individual.

The State is currently drafting regulations to implement the Act and individual counties are developing guidelines for local administration. New Frontier is unaware of any participation in any of these meetings by Army representatives.

The Act goes into effect formally on July 1, 2001.

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